I read a tumblr post recently (sorry, lost the link!) in which someone asked a professor what he (she?) thought of fanfiction. The overall point seemed to be “write what you enjoy, and actually, all writing is fanfiction to a degree and has been for hundreds and hundreds of years.” The professor also said something about how before this stress on originality (and even then, how 100% original can we be?), readers really only wanted what was essentially fanfiction. A writer would take something like a King Arthur tale, for example, and make it even better than ever before.
In any case, the post got me thinking about fanfiction and my own experiences with it. I actually have never read much of it (for one, the best source for it is the Internet and I don’t like staring at a computer screen to read text for long, long periods if it can be helped), but I did write some when I was pre-teen and early teen. One was a relatively short pure Mary Sue about a “Sailor Universe” in the realm of Sailor Moon who had ALL of the senshi’s powers (before I knew about Sailor Cosmos, by the way). Another was a somewhat more original seven-chapter series about Genbu no Miko, a prequel to Fushigi Yuugi. In the original manga and anime, Watase hinted at a girl who had been the Genbu priestess in the past, but she hadn’t yet fully developed the story, so I took her hints and spun my own tale. Years later, Watase did her own version, which of course was infinitely better than mine.
They’re actually still on the Internet under a pseudonym (yes, we had Internet when I was that young, ha, although it looked a whoooole lot different), if you tinker around with the way back machine, but I’m not going to link you to it. Geh! I just visited the page and found another short fanfiction I’d forgotten all about: Usagi from Sailor Moon wishing she could leave Mamoru for Seiya. Too bad for Chibiusa, eh?
But then I was thinking, what other writing did I do back then? It may not have been fanfiction, but it was inspired by my love for something at the time. I read The Chronicles of Prydain, and I was writing my own (unintentionally hilarious!) attempt at high fantasy. I saw and read Centennial, and all of sudden I was writing a Western historical. And it sometimes still happens today. I got back into a Regency and Victorian era kick recently (not that I ever stopped liking them), and an idea for a Regency historical started kicking around in my head.
Perhaps most embarrassingly of all to admit, but ever since I could remember, I’ve “performed” (?) fanfiction in my head. Not as much these days since I have less trouble hitting the hay, but when I was younger, it’d take me quite a while to fall asleep after I went to bed. If sleep wasn’t happening, I imagined whatever book/movie/show/comic/anime was new to me or a favorite thing at the time, only with… Me. Basically, with a Mary Sue. And the very worst kind of Mary Sue, who has greater powers than the other X-Men, for example (a favorite “power” to give my Sue, as you can see from the Sailor Universe thing above, is having EVERYONE else’s powers, ha, like a single being wouldn’t like explode with the sheer force), and who’s befriended by all of her favorite characters. Now that I know what a Mary Sue is (I did start doing this in elementary school), it’s extremely mortifying to admit that that entertained me, but I guess it entertains a lot of people. The term exists for a reason, right?
That said, short of my young days of writing those few fanfiction, I don’t pretend that a Mary Sue I come up with would entertain anyone else. As a reader, I would hate to read about a perfect, deus-ex-machina character. (Not that I haven’t come across a few…) In fact, even in the fanfiction in my head, I prefer drama to everything magically going the Mary Sue’s way. There’s something about arguments, misunderstandings, obstacles and characters learning to improve themselves along the way that perfect Mary Sues just don’t hold a candle to.
Then again, apparently people are entertained by fanfiction and Mary Sues. I’m not even talking about the tons of free fanfiction available online to those who seek it—read what you love, and enjoy the well written stuff out there. But I just love informing the random women I come across who love a certain extremely insane-selling erotic book series how it’s a Twilight fanfiction. These types of women don’t usually know what fanfiction is, but once I explain the Twilight parallels (and how the author originally uploaded it for free with the Twilight characters’ names in tact and basically just did a search-and-replace with new names for publication)*, they start understanding: they love fanfiction! They love erotic fanfiction at that. And for them, that’s okay. Apparently I love fanfiction in my head, so who am I to judge? (Just maybe, the next fanfiction to get published could have a little better character development and prose?
*How do I know so much about these books? No, I haven’t read them, but I have read samples and articles explaining the original Twilight connection. That’s my story (but it’s truel!) and I’m sticking to it.